Israel Blocks Qatari Aid to Gaza in Response to Incendiary Balloons

Rights groups criticize 'cynical move of continuous collective punishment' for the burning of Israeli fields

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Masked Palestinians prepare to attach an incendiary device to balloons before releasing them near Gaza's Bureij refugee camp, by the Israel-Gaza border fence, August 12, 2020.
Masked Palestinians prepare to attach an incendiary device to balloons before releasing them near Gaza's Bureij refugee camp, by the Israel-Gaza border fence, August 12, 2020.Credit: AFP

Israel has decided that it will allow no money to enter the Gaza Strip from Qatar as long as Palestinians continue to launch incendiary balloons at Israel, Haaretz has learnt.

This week, more than 60 fires broke out in Israeli fields bordering Gaza because of balloons launched by Palestinian operatives, mostly affiliated with Hamas.

Qatar is supposed to transfer $30 million to Hamas in Gaza, as it does every month. Furthermore, the Qatari envoy is also not keen on visiting Gaza until the atmosphere calms down, Haaretz has learnt. For the time being, intensive talks between Hamas and Israel using Qatar and Egypt as intermediaries have failed.

On Friday morning, Israel struck Hamas sites in Gaza in retaliation for the launching of incendiary balloons, as it had on Thursday as well.

Israeli Defense Minister Benny Gantz has halted fuel transfers into Gaza due to the launching of incendiary balloons. Earlier this week, Israel restricted the fishing zone to eight nautical miles from 15, and halted all transfer of goods from its Erez land crossing.

A number of human and civil rights NGOs are demanding that Israel lift the blockade, claiming the measures are too harsh, especially in view of the coronavirus crisis. The organizations – the Association of Civil Rights in Israel, B’Tselem, Adalah, Physicians for Human Rights, Gisha, Ir Amim, Zazim and HaMoked, maintained that Israel’s moves are “another cynical move of continuous collective punishment, intended deliberately to hurt the Gaza Strip’s two million residents.”

Thursday was the eighth day in a row in which balloons floated from the Gaza strip caused fires in Israeli communities around the border. According to the Israel Fire and Rescue Services, 21 fires broke out in the area.

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